There are strong signs that Mazda’s Wankel rotary engine is not dead: the small Japanese manufacturer is planning to do some more work on this interesting engine. We last saw a Wankel rotary engine in the Mazda RX-8; then its development was discontinued because there was no way to meet the ever stricter emissions regulations in Europe an the United States. As fuel prices increased, the relatively thirsty Wankel rotary engine seemed to lead to a dead end in engine design.
Now Mazda is working on its SkyActiv technology, and they believe the efficiency of the Wankel rotary engine can be improved significantly. Mazda engineers also believe that by using more advanced ignition systems, a Wankel rotary engine can prove to be feasible in today’s cars. They are working on a number of improvements that might boost performance while reducing consumption and emissions.
The Wankel rotary engine works in a totally different way than the piston engines we all know. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like housing and a triangle-like rotor. The biggest advantage of this engine is that it is extremely compact, light, and runs very smoothly.
Over the years, many manufacturers were experimenting with the Wankel rotary engine, but only Mazda succeeded to master the technology and build Wankel rotary engines reliable enough to be mass produced.
The British Autocar magazine talked to a Mazda engineer who confirmed the rumors about a possible new Wankel rotary engine, and said that he would like the new engine to enter production in five years. The new engine would be offered first in naturally aspirated form, but there might be a turbocharged version as well.
Mazda boss Takashi Yamanouchi is also known to be a supporter of the Wankel rotary engine design, promising that the research into future rotary engines will continue as long as he works at the company.